Residents claim to have nabbed man who was flinging chemicals on huts; police deny any arrest

Hardly three days after 50 huts were gutted in a fire in Srinivasapuram, a similar incident led to the death of one person and the destruction of 60 huts in the same locality on Sunday morning. Residents claim that they nabbed the man who had allegedly set the huts on fire and handed him over to the police.

On Sunday evening, after the fire had been put out, normality slowly returned to the area. Children were back to their usual game of cricket; in the distance, couples were arriving for a stroll on the beach. Police and fire personnel stood in the area, relaxing after a day-long battle to put out the fire.

Many residents searched the charred debris of what used to be their houses, for utensils. Others were in a state of shock. “Today being a Sunday, most of us were watching television around 10.30 a.m. Some people spotted a hut in flames and rushed out. But it was a bit late, as by then, the wind fuelled the fire which spread to huts in the vicinity as well, said R. Selvakumar, a resident of the locality who works in a gas company.

The residents alerted the fire control room and with the help of their personnel, doused the fire by noon. A total of four fire fighting vehicles and 40 personnel spent two hours putting out the fire. “Kumar (45) who was a daily wage earner, died in the accident. He had recently met with an accident and hurt his leg. Though he knew that his hut was on fire, he could not escape. Sharanya, his ten-year-old daughter, was injured,” said Mr. Selvakumar.

Even as residents were consoling each other, another hut caught fire. “It cannot have been due to the sparks as this hut was fifty feet away whereas the ones next to those gutted had not caught fire. It was then some women spotted a man with a carry bag throwing something on the huts some 100 feet away,” said G. Ramkumar, a resident of the locality and employee of a courier company.

A few youths chased the suspect and nabbed him. “He was throwing some chemical. We did not want to manhandle him, so we handed him to the police. He must have been in his twenties and was wearing a red T-shirt. We have not heard anything after that,” said Mr. Selvakumar.

Residents claim that they took to the road to find out more but were chased off. “Some of the women were hurt in the process,” said a woman resident of the locality. “We do not even want compensation. We request the government to build us concrete houses in a nearby ground,” said Mr. Ramkumar.

Foreshore Estate police personnel said that they had not detained anybody. “It is just a rumour,” said police. Fire personnel said that the damage due to the fire was Rs.1.6 lakh and goods worth Rs.3 lakh were saved.

The family of the deceased received Rs. 1.lakh as compensation said Mr. Selvakumar. “Others will get Rs. 5,000,” he said.

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